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How Toxic Is A Jack O’Lantern Mushroom?

If you forage for wild mushrooms, you may have heard that jack o’lantern mushrooms can be dangerous. Not only are they toxic, but they look rather similar to some edible mushrooms. So, just how toxic is a jack o’lantern mushroom? What symptoms does it cause, and how do you treat these symptoms in case of accidental mushroom poisoning? Read on to find out more!

How Deadly is the Jack O’Lantern Mushroom?

How Deadly is the Jack O’Lantern Mushroom

Jack o’lanterns are certainly toxic, but they rarely, if ever, kill healthy adults. They may be deadly to small children or the very elderly if a significant amount is consumed, but this is generally caused by dehydration secondary to the actual effects of the mushroom toxins.

According to the Northern New England Poison Center, jack o’lanterns can cause severe stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. As you might expect, these symptoms can easily cause dehydration, which in turn may cause further complications such as organ damage and even death.

Again, though, jack o’lanterns very rarely cause death. Usually, the symptoms are fairly mild, though the severity of symptoms depends largely on how much was eaten and how much of the toxin was present in the consumed mushrooms.

If you accidentally eat jack o’lanterns, you may begin experiencing symptoms in as little as a few minutes, and the symptoms may last for several days. The longer the vomiting and diarrhea last, the greater your chance of becoming dehydrated.

It’s worth noting that humans are not the only one susceptible to jack o’lantern poisoning. These mushrooms can also cause vomiting and diarrhea in pets, though symptoms are generally quite mild and may not be immediately recognizable as mushroom poisoning.

What Toxin Does the Jack O’Lantern Mushroom Contain?

Jack o’lanterns contain two separate toxins: muscarine and illudin. These toxins are not lethal themselves but, as noted above, can cause a plethora of unpleasant and, at times, long-lasting symptoms. 

Interestingly, illudin is being studied for some potential health benefits, but considering the side effects associated with eating jack o’lantern mushrooms, it’s hard to say how these benefits could be taken advantage of.

Jack o’lantern mushrooms look a lot like other mushrooms. Some of the lookalikes are edible, while others may be toxic but contain different toxins. Check out the following video to learn how to distinguish jack o’lanterns from their lookalikes.

How to Treat Jack O’Lantern Mushroom Poisoning?

Since jack o’lantern poisoning is rarely lethal, it can usually be treated at home. This is especially if the symptoms are mild and don’t lead to any complications. 

If you discover that you’ve eaten jack o’lanterns before you experience symptoms, taking activated charcoal may absorb some of the toxins and lessen the symptoms you may experience. But in most cases, you won’t realize you’ve eaten poisonous mushrooms until symptoms appear, and at that point, the best thing you can do is try to relieve the symptoms.

Some things you can do to treat jack o’lantern poisoning at home include:

  • Get plenty of rest. Jack o’lantern poisoning is bound to make you feel pretty sick even if your symptoms are mild. Get as much rest as possible, as this will not only allow your body to cope with the stress of the symptoms but may allow you to rid yourself of the toxins more quickly.
  • Stay hydrated. You will be losing quite a lot of fluids through vomiting and diarrhea. It’s absolutely essential to replenish those fluids so you don’t become dehydrated and so you can flush the toxins out of your body. Do whatever it takes to get fluids into your body. Suck on ice chips, sip water or ginger tea, and avoid caffeinated and carbonated beverages, which tend to put you at a greater risk of dehydration.
  • Use a heating pad or hot water bottle for cramps. Heat can work wonders for stomach cramps. If you’re dealing with debilitating abdominal pain, using a heating pad, hot water bottle, or any convenient and safe heat source may provide some relief.

If your symptoms are severe, worsen over time, don’t subside after a few days, or lead to dehydration, you may need to seek medical care. Medical interventions may include IV fluids, potassium supplementation, and observation to make sure you don’t sustain any organ damage.

If your pet eats jack o’lanterns and begins experiencing symptoms, it’s a good idea to take them to the vet for observation. It is sometimes recommended to give your pet some milk to help dilute the toxins and produce milder symptoms, but getting them promptly to the vet is the best thing you can do for your furry friend.

Conclusion

Jack o’lantern mushrooms are toxic but are far from being one of the most toxic mushrooms out there. They cause a number of unpleasant digestive symptoms, but these symptoms tend to be fairly mild, especially if you stay hydrated while experiencing them.

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